Berkeley Journalism Community Recognized at 2021 News & Documentary Emmy Awards

August 11, 2021

Clockwise top left to right: Roberto Daza, Jessica Naudziunas, Isara Krieger, Bo Kovitz and Steven Leckart.

Five alumni from the Berkeley Journalism school community were honored, some multiple times, in nominations announced July 27 by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

The News & Documentary Emmy Awards honor programming content from more than 2,200 submissions. They originally premiered in calendar-year 2020 and are judged by a pool of over 800 peer professionals from across the television and streaming/digital media News & Documentary industry.

Roberto Daza (‘12) received three nominations. The first two are for Outstanding Video Journalism and News and Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a Newscast for the same work, “American Uprising.” The third is for Outstanding Feature Story in Spanish for, “Heridos, Presos, o Muertos: Las Consecuencias de Protestar en Venezuela” (Protesting in Venezuela Means Facing Injury, Imprisonment, or Death). Both pieces were produced for Vice News.

Daza, who was a producer and director of photography on “American Uprising” said, “I don’t normally cover breaking news, but I was fortunate enough to help lead one of the documentary teams Vice sent across the country to cover the unrest that gripped the nation after the killing of George Floyd.”

About his nomination for best Spanish language feature, Daza said, “There are very few American outlets that make a commitment to coverage in Latin America, much less allow you to produce a non-narrated documentary in Spanish in a country as difficult to navigate as Venezuela. It means a lot to see my team and I recognized for those efforts.”

Steven Leckart’s (‘07) film, “Challenger: The Final Flight,” which he developed, produced, and co-directed for Netflix, received two nominations. They are in the categories of Outstanding Historical Documentary⁣ and Outstanding Editing: Documentary.⁣

“It’s incredibly thrilling and gratifying to see our series nominated for two Emmys as a first-time director,” said Leckart. “I’m grateful to everyone who shared their stories with us on-camera. These first-person accounts, which include some people who have since passed away, allow us to capture a story that is as relevant today as it was in 1986 when seven Americans passed away aboard Challenger. As a new generation launches into space, I hope our series is seen not only as a cautionary tale, but also a story of the tradition – grand and flawed – on which our celestial ambitions are built.”

This series, Leckart said, would not have been possible without the tremendous support from Bad Robot, Zipper Bros., Sutter Road, and Netflix, as well as the Challenger Center, which was founded by the families of the crew.

ABC News producer Jessica Naudziunas (‘14) was nominated in the Outstanding Edited Interview category for, “Their Painful Bond- Black Mothers Speak Out Together on Their Unimaginable Loss.”

“Our Emmy nomination came as a result of a huge group effort during the early days of the pandemic,” Naudziunas said. “As executive producer, I conceived of and led a grand idea: bring together the mothers of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Antwon Rose and Trayvon Martin — who have all lost a son or a daughter, for a conversation with ABC News’ Deborah Roberts to discuss their shared bond in mourning, and their journeys and sacrifices as Black mothers in America. With my producing team spread out around the country, we connected with the mothers all together on one big Zoom call and spoke to them as a group — something that has never happened before. The result was a lightly edited and intentionally raw hour-long discussion that brought each mother’s plight into focus as the nation reeled from the murder of George Floyd.”

Bo Kovitz (’19) was an associate producer on, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” directed by award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter (former head of Berkeley Journalism’s prestigious documentary program). The film was nominated for Outstanding Historical Documentary and Outstanding Research: Documentary. The film chronicles Congressman John Lewis’s 60-plus years of social activism.

“A very, very special moment for me during production was when we filmed John Lewis’s interview at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C.,” said Kovitz. “The idea was to break away from the traditional sit-down interview format and construct a set around him: three almost larger-than-life screens projecting archival footage that documented his participation in the movement, images we’ve seen and not seen, the things he was witness to then, and that we could witness together with him now. I played a part in picking that imagery and will never forget sitting in the stands that day. So often when we work with archival footage, we can feel transported in time, but it’s rare to feel the grasp of history reaching out to you. That device in the film carries almost a three-dimensional quality to it, a confrontation of past and present, and in it a reminder that history lives inside us even if it feels far away.”

Kovitz said some of her favorite aspects of the film contextualize John Lewis’s politics in the larger and ongoing struggle for racial equality, celebrating his life and sacrifices while also reflecting on his stances against more radical forms of protest, like his separation from the Black power movement of his time and his relationship and friendship with the late Julian Bond. “The film released at a critical moment in our recent history too, and more than anything I’m thankful he was able to see the film before he passed,” Kovitz said.

Isara Krieger (’17) received two nominations: One as assistant editor on, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” and the other for, “The Way I See It,” also directed by Dawn Porter.

“It was a special honor to work on, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” whose delayed release due to Covid-19 ensured that the film premiered exactly two weeks before the Congressman passed away from pancreatic cancer,” said Krieger. “It also released at the end of a summer when protests for racial justice erupted around the world. It was the kind of material where, even on a bad day, John Lewis’ spirit and endlessly impassioned life story affected each of us deeply and removed us from our own perspectives. This is why I love working in documentary film; as time moves forward it gives new meaning to people and events past. It was also my first all women post production team—another special honor.”

Reflecting on working on “The Way I See It,” Krieger said, “Everyone knows those beautiful Obama photos—the product of an experienced political photographer and a charismatic subject. I was blown away by the collaboration on this project between all roles involved in filmmaking, including the archivists tracking down historical footage, the composers creating a score that brings historical events to life, and the colorists handling a film made of so many still photos.”

“Watching the success and recognition given to our alumni working in television and documentary filmmaking is thrilling,” said Geeta Anand, dean of Berkeley Journalism. “Producers and directors working at this level are constantly challenged to push beyond their last project. It gives the entire Berkeley Journalism community a huge sense of pride and shared appreciation to see our alumni honored this way.”

The awards will be presented in two individual ceremonies: The News Categories will take place Tuesday, September 28th, at 8 p.m. EDT, and the Documentary Categories on Wednesday, September 29th, at 8 p.m. EDT.

 

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